Thing 7: Getting yourself out there…
July 18, 2011
In today’s wired world, it seems easier for those of us who are a bit shy to just make the effort online to connect with people, either via the networks mentioned in the last posts, or by emails through a mutual a. However, I believe that it is essential to actually connect to people personally, face-to-face, in order to really make a lasting impression. And, this can be difficult for some people. Yes, it kinda sucks to go to an event where you know no one, and everyone else is talking to someone. How do you break into the conversation, or do you want to?
When I have done this is the past, I have usually had an introduction by a mutual acquaintance, but not always. I think we are in a fortunate profession, where people always seem to me to be genuinely interested in helping fellow colleagues. Sometimes you just take a deep breath and go introduce yourself. Sometimes, you can make eye contact with someone and get an encouraging smile that makes you feel more comfortable in going to do so. Or, if you are at a talk, the main speaker is usually always glad to hear feedback about the talk. The worst thing you can do is stand by yourself and look awkward and ill at ease. Find another person by themselves and try to put them at ease–they will appreciate it!
I have had a couple of face-to-face networking experiences; one was attending the ALA conference in Chicago in 2005. I did not know anyone, so I had to introduce myself to people I was sitting near, or ask questions if I was lost. It was good practice, and although at times it felt embarrassing, everyone was always really friendly and willing to share their thoughts. I also belong to SLA, previously as part of the MN chapter, and I have always gotten a lot out of the individual webinars and events held in our local area. I met a lot of really interesting people, and learned a lot about new technologies, copyright, and social networking. In MN, they even had a “presentation practice” session where each person who signed up could speak about anything they wanted for 3 minutes–library or non-library related. This was a great opportunity to hone your presentation skills in front of a forgiving audience, and to also get to know more personally your colleagues (I was an audience member, not a presenter, but wished I had tried it!)
So, yes, I believe that in conjunction with the other tools provided to us, we need to “pound the pavement” so to speak and put ourselves out in these public venues so that people can really get to know us. From my earlier networking post, I mentioned that I have already set up a couple of face-to-face meetings with people to get their views on the library industry and things I can do to move my job search along. As I said, it was hard, but in actuality it was really easy because everyone was friendly and accomodating, so don’t be afraid; take a deep breath and get yourself out there! You will find it worth it and, with practice, you may even enjoy it!